Selected Project Follow
Follow. Concept art courtesy of the project team.
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Prototypers

Christopher Schardt


Location

RETAIL HEART

Retail Heart

A column of LEDs that projects avatars for everyone who comes around one of Market Street’s uniquely-angled corners.

The diagonal nature of the intersections of Market Street and the streets to the north make for some interesting corners and pedestrian traffic patterns. People come and go in all directions. Sometimes, when the corner angle exceeds 90 degrees, pedestrians seem to reverse direction. Passing By intends to highlight this traffic by displaying it on an LED display, providing a little levity, perhaps putting a smile on the faces of the people of San Francisco who are in such a hurry.

The form of the piece is a cylinder, 6’ tall and 5’ in diameter. The top 24” of the cylinder is covered with 24 5meter-long fully-addressable, RGB LED strips, horizontally arranged. Interwoven with the LEDS is a grid of motion sensors that detect when anyone is close by. The signals from the sensors are fed to an Mac Mini, which displays an animated avatar for the person on the LEDs directly in front of wherever he/she is detected. As the person walks/runs by, his/her avatar moves along with him/her. The avatars are chosen at random from a library of photos and videos of objects such as plants, animals, cars, appliances, furnishings, celestial bodies, etc… No images of people are used. The avatars rotate or oscillate in size, aspect ratio, brightness, or color, also at random. When the person is no longer detected, the avatar disappears. The image on the LEDS would look something like the videos found here.

Follow’s principal structure, for the prototype at least, is a water-resistant cardboard tube manufactured as a concrete form (Sonotube). One end is covered with plywood. The other end is open to the ground. Inside this space is a locked, sealed box containing a power supply, iPad, and other electronics. About 300W of 120VAC power is required for operation. (If this is not available, a pair of deep-cycle batteries can be used.) The LEDs are bright enough to be visible in the daytime, so operation can be continuous. The waterproof LEDs will be covered with polycarbonate sheet to protect them from vandalism.

For the prototype location, the north-west corner of O’Farrell and Market would be ideal. The sharp corner there has a little, brick plaza with a public clock tower in the middle. Passing By could be centered around this pole. The permanent version of this piece, if any, can be made of poured concrete and metal, and either a full, half or quarter cylinder, perhaps extending around a street corner.


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The Market Street Prototyping Festival is a collaboration between the San Francisco Planning Department and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

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